Life Learning

Tuesday 19 November 2019

Testing times lie ahead as primary pupil numbers reach 20-year high

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

PRIMARY school pupil numbers are at their highest level in 20 years.

As the back-to-school rush gets under way, the baby boom of the past decade has pushed enrolments up to about 525,000 this September.

This is about 10,000 more than last year -- and the number will continue rising until 2019.

Second-level schools are also seeing a surge, with an additional 5,000 pupils bringing enrolments up to about 327,000 this year. A peak in enrolments at post-primary is not expected until about 2027, when it is projected to reach around 400,000.

The explosion in pupil numbers comes as nine new primary and five new post-primary schools open this September.

It also means some good news for newly-qualified primary teachers who are looking for jobs. It is estimated that about 500-600 such positions need to be filled this year, including up to 400 new posts to cater for the jump in pupil numbers and the replacement of about 200 teachers who retired over the summer.

However, primary teacher graduates -- about 1,800 this year -- continue to outstrip the number of vacancies available.

Cuts

The news is less promising at post-primary level, though, where cuts of 700 teachers announced in last year's Budget are affecting job opportunities.

However, there is some relief on the way for the schools worst hit by the embargo on middle management promotions earlier this year.

The Department of Education advised school managers this week that it would now allow a limited number of appointments at assistant principal level. It is a recognition of the loss of staff experienced in some schools in recent months arising from retirements.

In February, a ban was imposed on the payment of allowances associated with positions such as assistant principal and other posts of responsibility.

It is part of the wider ban on the payment allowances to public servants, pending a review aimed at cutting €75m a year off the €1.5bn a year bill for such payments.

The same ruling has also affected the pay of new teachers, who are now starting on a salary of €27,814, having lost their qualifications allowance of about €5,000.

Irish Independent

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